WASHINGTON — The thick fog of secrecy encircling the U.S. Navy’s Project Overmatch is still needed to keep rival nations including China and Russia off-balance, unable to discern from afar how the service is readying for future large-scale conflicts, according to a pair of experts.
Speaking at a Defense News event Jan. 26, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute, and Bill Drexel, an associate fellow of technology and national security at the Center for a New American Security, said the clandestine approach that has shrouded the project since its inception in late 2020 is purposeful, however frustrating it may be to outside observers.
“A large part of it is this idea that decision advantage does depend on what you think you’re going to be combining together, how you manage the communication network,” Clark said. “And getting too much into the details of that would provide information that China could use to try to take that network apart.”
Project Overmatch is the Navy’s contribution to Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the Pentagon’s multibillion-dollar push to connect disparate databases and forces across land, air, sea, space and cyber. By doing so, defense officials say, the U.S. will be able to better address foreign aggression.
China is attempting to counteract JADC2 with what has been dubbed Multi-Domain Precision Warfare, or MDPW, an effort to interlink command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and more to quickly coordinate firepower and exploit weakness.
“It’s a stated high-priority target of both the Chinese and Russian military doctrine. So, I’m pretty glad that it’s secret,” Drexel said Thursday. “I suspect the kind of stitching everything together, particularly, is what the Chinese, the Russians, would love to know.”
The Navy plans to deploy a carrier strike group with products of Project Overmatch, namely advanced networking capabilities, later this year.
Rear Adm. Doug Small, who leads both Naval Information Warfare Systems Command and is spearheading Project Overmatch, in a November interview described the milestone as the “starting gun.” Additional deployments on additional strike groups are expected to follow.
“When you think of this systems warfare approach, they see our command, control and communications architecture as being our linchpin and our greatest vulnerability,” Clark said. “Revealing too much about Project Overmatch might give clues that an adversary could use.”
The Navy sought $195 million for Project Overmatch in fiscal 2023, a 167% increase over the $73 million it received in 2022.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.